A large crowd gathered in the Abbey Hall, Roscrea on Friday last for a public meeting with regards to a recent announcement by Roscrea Leisure Centre to cut its hours.
At the top table were a number of former Roscrea Leisure Centre Engagement Group members who were approached by numerous members to help officiate at the meeting.
This included Brian King who lobbied some years ago for an engagement group to be put in place together with PJ Wright who chaired the meeting, Pat McCabe who did a lot of research on the accounts for the leisure centre etc before the meeting, Denis Cummins who has lobbied hard on the issue and Eoin Moloney who looked after the very popular Facebook page which was launched last year to address pricing issues etc with the centre.
Also in attendance were members of the centre, members of the general public and representatives of various organisations including Roscrea Chamber of Commerce President Seamus Browne and Roscrea Leisure Centre Board member and local Fianna Fail Councillor Michael Smith.
After the meeting was opened, Cllr Michael Smith gave a full update of the current situation and advised that he would seek to have the former hours restored. Some of those in attendance were at pains to understand why Nenagh and Thurles Pool had not had their hours cut and why they receive more money in subvention grants than Roscrea.
Brian King said: “It had taken years of agitation going back to the 1930’s within the community of Roscrea to get a swimming pool project up and running.” He continued: “the Roscrea Leisure Centre is a project that remains passionately close to people’s hearts in Roscrea” and that coupled with the Roscrea Social Inclusion plan needs to be taken into consideration when hours, pricing etc is considered at Roscrea Leisure Centre.
Stephen Moloney agreed and said that the local councilors on the Board were not doing enough to ensure Roscrea Leisure Centre is treated as fairly as any other leisure Centre in the country.
PJ Wright fielded a number of additional questions and asked for a list of issues from members of the audience which were then given to the panel.
Pat McCabe did a comprehensive review of previous accounts of the leisure Centre and said he could not understand why any updated accounts were not available and why based on previous accounts the Centre could be losing money which would in any way justify cutting hours.
Brian King was called upon to explain what had happened in relation to the leisure Centre engagement group over the past two years. Brian explained the frustrations they had encountered when trying to engage positively for the benefit of the leisure Centre board and members. Brian said they had success last year with regards a compromise on the two for one pricing but that many other issues raised were not addressed. The group decided to disengage out of frustration last April but before doing so drafted a letter to the Board Of Management. Brian said this should have been used as “a strategic tool” for the development of the Centre.
Brian concluded by noting that “Michael Smith as a Board member of the Roscrea Leisure Centre has always made time to be available for any issues that have arisen.”
Pat McCabe noted Cllr Michael’s Smith’s willingness to get involved while members such as Edel Carey and Noreen Ryan gave examples of why it was essential that the original opening hours for the pool be restored. Noreen Ryan also stated that Management should be focused on growing the membership base of the pool.
In a very engaging meeting a number of people present expressed their frustration that the Chairperson of the Leisure Centre refused to meet with them despite requests in recent weeks which didn’t help matters.
PJ Wright highlighted that it was vital that meaningful engagement would take place between the members and the management. Pat McCabe said we need the hours restored and we need management to engage with its members.
Brian said that when he heard the news last December he felt it was another body blow to Roscrea coming on the back of the depletion of so many services. Roscrea has suffered enormously recently, regarding the library, Dean Maxwell, job creation, the rail line, tourism and infrastructure investment.
For many visitors to the Leisure Centre, their experience there will dictate whether they stay in Roscrea to have a meal or do some shopping. Restricting hours sends out a “very negative message” not just about the Leisure Centre but about Roscrea as a town in general.
Pat McCabe and Cllr Michael Smith agreed with Brian and the meeting ended on a positive note when Cllr Smith committed to doing all that he could at a upcoming meeting of the Leisure Centre Board to have the hours restored.
That meeting took place on Monday evening last (January 23rd) after which Cllr Michael Smith posted the following: “The Leisure Centre Board has agreed to suspend the decision to reduce the opening hours for a period of three months. This will allow for engagement in a consultation process with management and members etc. Hopefully this process will be successful and enable the board to rescind the decision altogether.
“As soon as this obstacle is out of the way we can concentrate on the next challenge to encourage greater usage by the local population. Every extra person using this excellent facility helps in the long run.”
That same evening, Roscrea Credit Union hosted its monthly meeting. Chairman Sean Hogan said a number of Credit Union members had expressed their concerns to him regarding the Leisure Centre. While the Credit Union had committed to giving €750,000 to establish the pool it was not involved in its management. Before the item could be discussed word had reached the Credit Union about the restoration of hours which Chairman Sean Hogan described as a positive step in the right direction and thanked the Board of the leisure Centre.